[P]AUL STAINTON: It’s a new musical play exploring the evolution of Peterborough and it’s being performed in the city later this month. It’s called Parkway Dreams. It’s local theatre company Eastern Angles’ 100th production. It’s previewing at the Key Theatre before touring to 12 venues across the East of England. Pleased to say that two of the people behind Parkway Dreams, Ivan Cutting and Rob Jackson are here. Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Ivan I will hazard a guess that you’re the Director.
IVAN CUTTING: I am. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: You’ve got that directorial look about you sir.
IVAN CUTTING: Do I look that worried? Haggard?
PAUL STAINTON: Steven Spielberg-esque.
IVAN CUTTING: Thank you.
PAUL STAINTON: You have that look. I’ll say Rob, you probably play the part of Peter.
ROB JACKSON: I do play the part of Peter.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. That is. Parkway Dreams. First of all, looking at the parkways around Peterborough, all concreted over and semi-circular, not the stuff of dreams for a lot of people.
IVAN CUTTING: But the whole concept of the project, the new town expansion if you like, was a Utopian attempt to build a new city, a green city. It was the ’60s. It was the time of optimism and hope. And I think we chose Parkway Dreams simply because Parkway was a way of saying to the people of Peterborough, this is about Peterborough, but not telling the other people that we’re going to see that it’s about Peterborough. It’s a term, in a sense, that’s unique to the town. But also those parkways they were American-esque. They were big, you were going to be able to get into the city fast. It’s about movement. It’s about the future. So they had that air about them when they were built. Now since then .. this time of the year, when all the leaves are gone and they’re not particularly green, and not at their best perhaps .. but nevertheless they’re so uniquely of the city.
PAUL STAINTON: They were unique. When I first came to Peterborough in 1989 I couldn’t tell where I was. I literally spent about a year driving round the city going off at the wrong junction, because they all look the same when you first come here.
IVAN CUTTING: That’s true. And that’s part of it. The sheer optimism of the time is they put so many plants in, so much greenery, that in a sense they struggle to look after it now. But nevertheless you can see what the dream was. And you go over the Nene Parkway now and you see the rowing, and see the water either side, you think wow. And actually you wouldn’t believe you were in the middle of a city. That’s part of the problem really.
PAUL STAINTON: And the ability to drive round it of course. (To Rob) You play Peter. Not Peter Peterborough surely.
ROB JACKSON: No no. Peter Devlin. There’s a running gag throughout the play that the name Peter is .. it has an irony to it, as the family then moved to Peterborough later on. I play Peter who is a young lad who’s from an overspill family of the East End of London. When he’s about ten years old, he and his family move up to Peterborough as part of the Peterborough Development Corporation. It’s about his life being taken from the slums in the East End of London to this exciting new city with his family to make a fresh start really, which happened a lot in the ’60s and ’70s.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. There were many influxes into the city, weren’t there.
ROB JACKSON: Yes. Exactly.
PAUL STAINTON: There were many different generations, many different ethnicities. So how do you build a story around the parkways?
IVAN CUTTING: Well we have lots of different elements to it.
PAUL STAINTON: Margaret Thatcher does feature, doesn’t she?
IVAN CUTTING: Well of course she has to. Because she comes right in the middle of the story, and at that point is when it turns round, because she doesn’t like the new towns, because she thinks they’re all going to vote Labour. So she’s very anti-new towns. And they start putting money into the inner cities. This is about the time of the Toxteth Riots etcetera. So the money is slashed from the new town development. But what we’ve got is lots of sketches. We’ve got take-offs of the Generation Game, Crackerjack, Blankety Blank, all with Peterborough guests to tell the story. We’ve got the story of Peter and his parents. Then we’ve also got all the excerpts from the interviews that we’ve been doing with people, who remember their first day at work at the Development Corporation, or their first house that they looked round. There’s one person who says, “Wow! It had twelve plug points in the kitchen.” (THEY LAUGH) Someone else said, “We found a skeleton under the Ortons. We called him Arthur, because there was only half of him.”
PAUL STAINTON: I’m looking at your flyer for the short production as well. And it reminds me of the days when I started out in radio at Hereward FM. It’s almost got a Hereward FM type logo on it, and beige red and yellow and orange, those were the colours then, weren’t they? And some great pictures of a kid on a chopper bike, and a couple of people pushing prams as well.
IVAN CUTTING: It’s a very nostalgic show. It’s an optimistic show. It’s about celebrating twenty years when something happened. people had dreams, and they tried to put them into effect. It’s not about judging it. It’s not about saying what happened since.
PAUL STAINTON: A snapshot of life. A microcosm of life then.
IVOR CUTTING: Absolutely. And people were amazed at what was going to happen. They were amazed at Queensgate when it first arrived, this Italian marble, this place which had a roof over it. Where did you go shopping with a roof over it? And we’ve got a great song called, “It never rains in Queensgate.” (THEY LAUGH)
PAUL STAINTON: No. But they’ll have to redevelop it soon or it might. Ivan, it’s on at the Key (Theatre) of course, and then it’s touring the East. When can we see it? When can we go along?
IVAN CUTTING: You can see it at Ken Stimpson on 19th/20th April. And then Jack Hunt on 23rd April, Ormiston Bushfield on 24th and 25th April, and then finally at St John’s Hall in Mayors Walk on 26th and 27th April.
PAUL STAINTON: Well listen, we wish you all the best with this. Going to Cambridge as well?
IVAN CUTTING: It is yes.
PAUL STAINTON: So that will be good as well. Right across the East of England with Parkway Dreams. If you’ve ever driven around Peterborough on those parkways, they’ve made it dream-like. They’ve made stories out of it. Thank you for coming in this morning guys. Really appreciate it. Ivan Cutting, Director of Parkway Dreams, and and Rob Jackson who plays Peter in the play. First performance on 18th April at the Key Theatre Stdio, and as Ivan says it goes round the schools in Peterborough, and then it goes to Cambridge and across the East of England. As we mentioned, Margaret Thatcher features quite heavily. Full of charm and conviction, but also extremely controversial in her policies.